Crosby, Stills & Nash – Sage Gateshead (2013)

Crosby, Stills & Nash

Sage Gateshead

15 Oct 2013

Although not a fan of this iconic trio myself, I took my elder brother along as an early 65th birthday present and also as reference point when I didn’t recognise a song.

The backing band set a nice groove and tumultuous applause greeted the elderly trio as they made their way to centre stage and seamlessly opened a concert that was to last the thick end of three hours. Carry On and their only Top 30 hit Marrakesh Express had the row in front of us swaying and singing along, much to my annoyance.

After a pretty ropey version of Southern Cross, Stills drifted off to the side of the stage, leaving Crosby and Nash to take over for a couple of very average new songs. Then he appeared out of the shadows to sing a new song, possibly called Good Days/Bad Days, which sounded like a generic Laurel Canyon song. After introducing Buffalo Springfield’s classic Bluebird as ‘a song from my childhood’, I noted that he may actually be a bit poorly.

Deja Vu was a long, drawn out affair, with everyone including the bass player and both keyboard players getting to do a solo. But, all was forgiven when the first half ended with a divine version of Love The One You’re With.

Perhaps I sound like I’m being unfair here, as Crosby and Nash’s voices and harmonies were outstanding. But, their choice of songs left me and quite a few people in the sold-out venue a little underwhelmed.

After a short break the hall quickly filled up and the elder statesmen looked remarkably refreshed and even chipper, with Helplessly Hoping starting where the first set ended.

Nash followed this with another new song, Golden Days, about his time in the seminal British Pop Group the Hollies. While not as bland of some of the earlier new songs, I could easily have lived without it, especially when he followed with Treetop Flyer which was absolutely superb.

By the time Crosby introduced Guinevere, I would have been happy to hear him sing the phone book! How can a man with a lifestyle like his in the last 50 odd years still have a voice so pure and silky? Sometimes life just isn’t fair. The song itself, slow and beautiful with sublime harmonies from Graham Nash, was certainly one of the highlights of the evening.

Triad was ‘interesting’ as it became a bit of a Rock/Boogie which bore no comparison to the original version; which even I know is a bit of a Classic that shouldn’t be tampered with.

As the rapturous applause died down, Nash introduced the twee Our House and dedicated it in a ‘knowing way’ to ‘Joni’ which probably made sense to the 100’s of old Hippies who chuckled out loud, but I had to have the story explained afterwards.

The final half hour will live with me for a very long time. Teach Your Children was absolutely amazing and hearing Crosby perform Almost Cut My Hair was worth the entrance fee alone. It received a genuine and thoroughly deserved standing ovation from all 2,000 fans.

Crosby, Stills and Nash ended the concert with Wooden Ships before being called back for Judy Blue Eyes which had the whole hall singing and swaying along again.

As we made our way back to the car, we passed plenty of smiling faces and heard snippets of conversations that told me the ‘older/original’ fans thought this had been one of the best concerts of their lives. For me, it had been very good, with the Hits generally being excellent. Crosby stole the show with one of the finest voices I’ve ever heard and his harmonies with Nash truly were glorious. Some of Stills’ guitar playing was masterful, but some was dreadful too.

If they had added a good support act, cut out the new songs and just played an hour and a half of their assorted Greatest Hits, I too would have thought this had been a Top 10 gig of all time.